It was bound to happen. Every cyclist experiences it. Riding fast on two thin wheels will catch up with you. It was still raining as I made a left turn onto Oak Grove Church Road. I crossed over the painted lines which divided the road and the two months of accumulated road oil gave no traction to those thin wheels. I laid my bike over and skidded across the asphalt. As I lay in the intersection (luckily no cars were coming) a wave of fear washed over me, and like every cyclists (and here I’m thinking motorcyclist, too) my first though was, “How’s my bike?” It was a little dinged up – but now it can be called “battle-scared.” I sat up and made a mental check of all the pain I was feeling. Anything broken? Nope, just road rash and some sore joints. Then the sadness, relief, fear, and embarrassment washed over me. Heart still pounding, I climbed back on my bike and went home. I almost quit riding that day.
There’s something about a fall – the violence, the disgracefulness, the lack of control, the pain, the shame – it can be heart breaking. King David knew something about falling down. He wrote in Psalm 40, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” For David, it wasn’t simply that he fell; David fell into something. And David didn’t just fall into something, he fell into a trap –a muddy pit that he couldn’t get out of. When trapped in an inescapable place, the temptation is to quit; what else is there to do? David did the only things he could do: he cried out to the Lord, and he waited patiently. David’s response to his circumstance was not to demand justice – pleading his rights and privileges. Rather, David belonged in that pit, and he knew it. He had, after all, taken another man’s wife and murdered her husband to hide his own sin. David had no foothold on grounds of ‘rights,’ he slipped and fell into the trap. However, he could plead on grounds of his need and on God’s character – this is what it means to trust in God; it is to cast yourself on the mercy of the judge. But before you can cast yourself on the mercy of the judge, you’ve got to own that your only hope is to be an object of mercy.
David experienced the shame of sin. He writes that his enemies around him, were saying, “Aha! Aha!” David owns the shame of what he has done, and he must. How could he ask for mercy if he didn’t? He exchanges the shame of sin for the shame of grace and what Paul called the “shame of the cross.” David embraces the fact, that he is the weak link. David doesn’t know God because David is worth knowing (by all human wisdom, David was worth knowing – he was the king after all). Rather, David owns that God is the kind of God who wants to be known – even to a person like David, and as that kind of God, God must ‘take the hit’ to be known. It is God’s mercy demonstrated in his graciousness that moves David to sing a new song and to delight in the “wonders you have done.”
As I climbed back on my bike and as onlookers inquired if I was okay – I had to own it. I’m the kind of person who falls, and as such, am the kind of person who needs mercy. It’s a kick in gut to realize that. All my pretense of “putting up with others,” of “carrying their load,” it’s a smoke screen: I’m the weakest link. Exchanging the shame and the fear of the shame of falling for the shame of grace is such a relief. To know that Jesus, loved me and gave himself for me, puts a new song in my heart and feels like standing on solid ground. Today, if you find yourself in a muddy pit, exchange the shame of sin for the shame of grace: cry out to Him and wait patiently for Him, you’ll soon feel the firmness of His provision underneath you.